Raiders owner Al Davis died Saturday morning at the age of 82. Now there are members of the sports media from ESPN to NFL Radio gushing over his legacy.
I am a huge Steelers fan, and I grew up having a STRONG dislike for the Raiders. I read about the Immaculate Reception. I saw old NFL films featuring the Steelers-Raiders battles of the 1970s (if you guys think Steelers-Ravens is fierce, it has nothing on Steelers-Raiders in the 70s). That dislike carried through the 1980s and intensified when the team moved to Los Angeles.
Now having said that, I have always had the utmost respect for Davis.
There was so much more to Davis. He was not only an owner, but he was the commissioner of the old American Football League in the 1960s. He was said to be the driving force to the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
It had been said that Davis hoped to put the NFL out of business by opening up AFL offenses to passing, names on the back of jerseys and encouraging drafting of black college players. Under Davis’ leadership, he managed to sign NFL players to bigger contracts, sign and draft big name college talent (Joe Namath and Bob Griese), and more importantly defeated the NFL teams in Super Bowls III and IV. The AFL signed a phat television contract with NBC (The NFL was with CBS). Because of that the NFL, led at the time by the great Pete Rozelle, HAD to merge with the AFL.
Not many people know that Davis coached the Raiders after years spent as a scout. If that is not a definition of a football man, then I don’t know what is.
We all know Davis was not at his sharpest during the last ten years of his life. Since the Raiders’ last Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XXVII, they have compiled an 37-91 record (not counting this season). And sure, his drafting of JaMarcus Russell was rather forgettable. However, I will let that diminish Davis’ legacy.
R.I.P. Al Davis.